Headteacher Blog - 18 June

Posted on: 18th Jun

Although we received the gloomy news this week that COVID restrictions will not be lifted for another four weeks, we have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline and have also been celebrating individual student successes which is helping keep spirits lifted. We were delighted to be able to resume House Matches, with a series of fixtures played and excellent examples of teamwork on display. We also sent students to the recent Berkshire Schools Track and Field Championships. Congratulations to all those who took part and a special mention to Year 8 student Zoe who finished second in the shotput.

Sadly, the extension of the lockdown has meant that we are unable to host the Year 11 prom at the original venue. Although this was expected, we fully understand the students’ disappointment and due to the prohibition on holding large gatherings we are not able to run a full prom on the school site. However, we have been working behind the scenes and would like to invite those students who were planning on attending the prom to a short outdoors reception in school at 19.00 on Friday, 25 June. Students will still get to dress in their ballgowns and suits and be able to arrive at the venue in style, being driven down from the top of the bus lane to alight at the gate between GT and Hubble. They will be able to chat with one another and their teachers in the Courtyard and enjoy a buffet and non-alcoholic cocktails, before being picked up by their parents and carers at 20:30. We know that this will not replace the excitement of the prom, but we hope that this will be the next best thing under the circumstances.

Thank you to those of you who took part in the recent parent survey, we really do appreciate and value your feedback. Many of you asked for more information when responding to the question ‘The school lets me know what my child will be learning in the year.’ The school website is updated each year with the curriculum summaries for every subject, by year group, so that you can see what your child is studying at any point in time. Due to the disruption caused by COVID some plans may have been adjusted, however they should still help you and your child see what they should be learning at each stage of their journey with us. To access this information, visit the website www.thedownsschool.org, click on the ‘Learning’ tab at the top of the homepage followed by ‘Subject Information’.

We have recently been successful in applying for grants from the West Berkshire Lottery and West Berkshire Council to build a new therapeutic garden on school grounds. This will be a quiet and peaceful space where students can receive therapeutic interventions, or a space they can come to for some quiet reflection. The garden will have a rain proof cover so can be used all year round and we aim to have it finished by the end of this year.

Last week was ‘Volunteers’ Week’, which was a reminder to us all to take the time to say thank you to those who give their time to improve the lives of their friends and neighbours. I led an assembly on the subject, highlighting just how important volunteering has been during the pandemic. I was also delighted to share how our Duke of Edinburgh, Bronze Award students have dedicated 429 hours to volunteering between April 2020 and March 2021, which equates to a social value of £1951.95. Thank you and congratulations to those students.

I am also delighted to share that as part of their fundraising efforts, Mrs Holbrook raised £1,350 following her Move 100km event that was mentioned in my last blog, and Ms Coombes has raised nearly £700 following her head shave for charity. Mr Hogan, Head of Sixth Form is currently in training for the 100km Race to the Stones event which takes place next month. He is raising money for two charities, Young Lives v Cancer and CALM (Cancer and Leukaemia Movement) who have both supported his family and particularly his son Freddie over the last couple of years. If you would like to sponsor him, the links are below and we wish him the best of luck.  These staff are really demonstrating our values of course and resilience.

Young Lives V Cancer (formally Clic Sargent) https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pete-hogan1

CALM (Cancer and Leukaemia Movement) https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pete-hogan

At the end of last week, some of our Year 9 students took part in the final presentations for their EEP project (Exceptional Education Plan). This is a substantial research project for the students, which culminates in them giving a presentation on an area of interest. The whole project is overseen by a staff mentor. The audience included several Year 9 students, parents who were watching remotely and School Governor Adam Chantler. The presentations covered subjects as diverse as an introduction to graffiti, women in war, blockbuster films and an introduction to Japanese. Congratulations to Kai, Eloise, Thomas T, Katie, Charlotte, Bea, Hannah, Thomas N, Layla and Isabella, Mrs Seath was very impressed with your presentations and your attention to detail.

We had a planned evacuation of the school last week, an exercise we undertake once a term to ensure that in the event of a fire or other emergency, we can get our students out of the buildings and to the assembly point efficiently and effectively.  The process ran incredibly smoothly, and in just 11 minutes we were able to evacuate all students and staff from the buildings and onto the school field, which is impressive for a school of 1,300 students.

Finally, I would like to remind you that our next Parent Forum will be taking place on Wednesday, July 7 and the subject is ‘Understanding how we report to parents at KS3’. If you are interested in attending, please email Mrs Anderson at danderson16@thedownsschool.org and she will forward you the event link.

I hope you and your families have a great weekend.

Mr Prosser



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